Movie Mondays ~ Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, December 30, 2019

This week wraps up this year’s movie viewing for me and with it, the end of my #MovieMondays feature here on the blog, so it was important to me that I went out with a bang. To do this, I picked two movies that have received quite a bit of discussion and high praise released via Netflix yet also appearing in movie theaters in order to qualify for the award season. Will one or both of these films live up to the hype? You will have to read this blog to find out. My movie review blog days are far from over. I’m simply not declaring a particular day movie review day and will not be doing full reviews of everything I see, only the ones I choose to talk in great detail about, but I’ll be sharing my movie ratings for other films seen throughout the year. As always thanks for reading this week and every week, all year long. ~ Chris K.


FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 12/23/2019 – 12/29/2019

 *click on photos to enlarge

111. The Irishman

Biography, Crime, Drama (2019)
Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci


I will admit from the start that I am not a die-hard Martin Scorsese fan. I do happen to love a few of his films, in particular THE DEPARTED (2006) and GOODFELLAS (1990). However, I find some of his most acclaimed early work overrated, especially TAXI DRIVER (1976) and although I appreciate the acting and the cinematography of RAGING BULL (1980), I find it taxing to sit through. But I have found as Scorsese got older, I appreciated his choices and growing confidence as a director.



So that brings me to his latest effort which has a running time of 209 minutes. I won’t lie, that fact did scare me. But just like an extra-long book, if the material is compelling, I’m not that easily scared, not if the work or the artist behind the work has a good track record or there is an incredible cast of actors to watch and enjoy.



So why did this film underwhelm me so much? I keep asking myself that this morning. I think my biggest complaint about the Irishman is I felt like I had seen this tale before. It was called THE GODFATHER (1972) directed by Francis Ford Coppola and the storytelling was far more interesting and much tighter in its delivery. This film has a very slow pace with a multitude of characters introduced to us in a way that honestly seems confusing compared to other similar films like Scorsese’s own GOODFELLAS but who makes each character stand apart from the next.



Conversations are loooooong and rambling, and by the midpoint of the film, I began to wonder if the film would surprise me in any way. The fact is it didn’t. Not really. Acting was good, but frankly some of the performers seemed like they were sleepwalking through it themselves, like they too felt they had done this before.



I’m sad to say this isn’t on my best list. It’s not on my worst list either, but it’s disappointing to me.


Score: 79




112. Marriage Story

Drama, Comedy, Romance (2019)
Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Julie Hagerty, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, Merritt, Wever


This was an interesting viewing for me because I do highly respect the leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as being more skilled at their craft then maybe some of their more commercial films would suggest, so whenever they appear in something that is more of an independent nature, I’m always excited to see what it is and this film would definitely qualify. This is not so much an original story – man and woman fall in love, they fawn all over each other and seem to support each other, have a kid and at some point in the marriage, they match with the statistics and opt to separate. I’m not giving away anything the trailers haven’t already told you. What is different, however, is the skill in which this story is told. The reactions and words feel like something real couples might experience — truly overwhelming and awe-inspiring at some times and the most hurtful ache and arrows one could hurl, the next.



Sure, there are some elements of predictability. The custody battle, for one. However, performances are much more layered than one might expect and I really didn’t know who I liked or disliked from one scene to the next. It reminded us that in divorce we are all good guys AND bad guys. Only the kids are completely innocent. They can still be a real pain in the ass at times, but they are not at fault for any of our bullshit.



The biggest weakness of the film — like the first one, it can be very slow at times, painfully slow and it too runs over two hours and feels like it. But I encourage you to stick with it. I always say when a movie has that one scene that really knocks my socks off, it’s worth the entire viewing time. This one has at least two of those scenes, I might venture to say three and Adam Driver is a huge part of all three of them.



Some of the most positive critiques I’ve read about the film credited it for painting a real picture of divorce between two people who once truly loved each other, once had each other’s backs but who along the way forgot about what brought them together in the first place until they are involved in a tug of war with their child or children (in one scene literally). This film does portray the good and bad that follows a breakup. They get a lot of it right, and I speak from experience on that one though I was fortunate enough not to have kids involved, just broken hearts.


I loved, loved, loved the way music is used in this film — under the opening and at its close, but especially during two scenes in particularly that showed these characters in the light that they choose to paint as they hurt – they couldn’t be more different pictures but the director Noah Baumbach manages to use two strikingly different songs from the same Broadway musical to speak volumes that the script only hints at but just how these two people are doing in their lives.


Both leads are terrific but Adam Driver really stands out for me. Really compelling stuff here and a nice way to end my year of film viewing.


Score: 86




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